Friday, 10 February 2012

Breaking The Gender Stereotypes

Freddy is an absolute delight.  On one hand he is boisterous and likes to throw or kick things around the room. And boy does he have a good chucking arm!  He likes trucks and trains and cars and planes.  He'll give you a 'death punch' (thanks for teaching him that kids!) He thinks farts and burps are hilarious.  He loves active play, climbing, jumping and sliding.  He is great at football.

However he also loves dolls...Bratz are his favourites.  Pink is his favourite colour. He loves Disney princesses.  He absolutely loves to dance.  He strikes poses, wiggles his hips in a way that would make Louie Spence proud and does jazz hands!  He likes to put on one of his big sister's tops when he dances because he likes how the fabric swishes and billows out as he moves.  Just Dance 3 is his favourite game and he now knows a lot of the moves by heart, and performs them while watching himself in the reflection on the oven.

Dancing Boy
I love Freddy's freedom, his lack of inhibitions and his determination to simply be himself.  I'm sure in time, when he starts nursery and meets other little lads, he will become more stereotypical in his behaviour.  But for now I fully intend to enjoy every moment of my free spirited little boy.  He knows noting of society's expectations of him as a male.  For him anything goes and he embraces it all.

Society deems any girlish behaviour in males as a sign of weakness or effeminacy.  I recently read a post from the USA about an American mum writing in favour of the new pink, girly Lego.  She argued that for years Lego has supported the macho stereotypes with their vehicles, cities, spaceships and other boyish designs.  Her own 4 year old son preferred all things pink, girlie and fluffy and was very excited about a Lego option that would appeal to his tastes.  The piece was warm, loving and articulate.  However the comments she received were the exact opposite.  An outpouring of hatred, venom and ignorance spewed out from more than half of the commenters.  People saying how she was raising a gay child which was abhorrent to God and she should be manning him up before he was damaged and damned to Hell.  It was stomach turning to read such terrible things written about a child and a mother who was bringing him up with sensitivity and openness.  Whether or not her child turns out to be gay is irrelevant. How can adults be so narrow minded and fail to see the positivity of allowing children to develop their own personalities without the constraints of stereotyping.

The other extreme of this however is the mother who refused to divulge the sex of her newborn and kept his gender secret for five years.  She wanted him to develop his personality without the constraints of gender.  In effect he was treated both as a boy or a girl at his mother's whim.  It certainly didn't seem to be his decision whether or not he was dressed in fairy wings and a tu-tu!  I can only imagine how confusing this must have been to the child.  Allowing them to discover their own personalities is one thing, imposing your own ideas and values is another.  After coming out as the mother of a son, she said she would still encourage him to wear blouses...did she actually want a girl??  Supporting his decision to wear blouses is one thing, but dressing him up because you actively want your son to be in touch with his feminine side defeats the whole object of gender neutral parenting.  Let him be!

Many people seem to be opposed to boys being macho, rough and tumble boys or girls being pink, girlie girls who love puppies and rainbows.  But if your son or daughter naturally orientates towards these ends of the spectrum, then that too should be supported and respected.  My first born son would have been horrified if I'd given him a Barbie for Christmas...he was a real laddish boy.  Whereas Kizzy would love the new girlie Lego and has no interest in regular Lego sets.  It doesn't interest her, whereas glamour, fashion and make-up does.  Anything goes!  Let our children be who they are meant to be!

So whether my son turns out to want to be a Prima Ballerina, or whether he ends up a builder, the choices will be there for him to make, not imposed upon him.  I'll give him all the opportunities available to give him and I'll support him in the decisions he makes.


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